Adrian Janes Selected Sources for Higher Education (Part 2)
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By Adrian Janes


DocuTicker editors contribute brief articles to FUMSI on conducting research with grey literature - reports from government agencies, think tanks, research institutes and public interest organisations.


In my work as a contributing editor for DocuTicker, I research publicly available reports on a number of global topics. Here are some of my favourite resources for Higher Education:

There are other important sites and methods for sharing academic-standard content besides those noted in Part 1 of this article. Much in the way of academic insight is first made available in journal form. While many continue to be high-priced (whether as hard copy or online subscription), it is also the academic community that has been in the forefront of the movement to make content open, i.e. free. JURN is a specialised search engine, which at present claims to be indexing over 3,000 ejournals in the arts and humanities. Using such a search engine immediately lessens the chances of having to sort through items which are irrelevant and of poor quality. Its excellent directory allows smooth access to the individual titles.

Another good directory is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). At the time of writing (November 2010) DOAJ claims to offer over 5,700 journals, although less than half are indexed and therefore searchable at the article level. It can be browsed alphabetically, or through broad subject headings. A useful feature is the Expand Subject Tree tab; clicking on this instantly opens out the whole directory so that the sub-categories of each subject are apparent as well as the number of journals it contains.

A number of other significant sites provide access to articles and also seek to include suitable material with other origins. Another important common characteristic is that they are well-catalogued, especially with regards to descriptive notes. This also means that due regard has been given to their actual quality before inclusion.Some examples are :

  • BUBL: The sites collected here are classified according to Dewey, a time-saving boon for both the library-savvy student and the librarian, complementing any relevant books that an institution possesses. In Advanced Search, searching by Dewey number is also one of the options. But knowledge of the classification system is not obligatory, as searches can be narrowed in logical progression from the ten major categories outlined on the home page.

  • Intute provides checked and annotated resources in the fields of Arts and Humanities; Health and Life Sciences; Science, Engineering and Technology; and Social Sciences. Its future is in serious doubt as funding is only guaranteed up until

    31 July 2011. Since another aspect of the site is its excellent Virtual Training Suite (information literacy cultivated in a very practical way, through subject-based tutorials that also make points of general relevance), this decision can only be lamented for its short-sightedness. The virtues of such a service are its quality standards and concurrent time-saving. Such features will only become more rather than less important as the Net continues to expand and general search engines become more bloated with often irrelevant content.

  • OAIster: The Open Archives Initiative catalogues digital resources, thoroughly describing their contents and giving links to each one. Although it draws upon millions of items, being part of OCLC's WorldCat, it can be a little confusing to use as in fact not all of the items are free or, alternatively, they may be viewed but not printed out. Ultimately, the level of access appears to depend on the policy of the particular institution or journal. Nevertheless, once a search has been conducted, it is easy to refine it by Format, Author, Year, Language, Content or Topic, with a new set of results being swiftly returned in response to each refinement.

  • The Scout Report complements the above three, in that while they are relatively static, the Report (based at the University of Wisconsin) is a weekly update of reviews of high-quality resources in all subjects.

While sites like BUBL lead from the general to the particular, others have a special focus. The REALIA Project is an international collection of single photographs and galleries, for the purpose of enhancing teaching (in an English-speaking context) about foreign languages and daily life. The top subject tags currently include Commerce, People, and Signs and Symbols. A search will bring up captioned thumbshots; clicking on either the picture or the caption will bring up the picture full-size. The exhaustive hyperlinked cataloguing which accompanies each picture makes it easy to move to other pictures, related either by subject or cultural /linguistic background, as shown by this example of a Mexican coffee advertisement.

For a wider view of both visual and aural materials, JISC Digital Media is excellent. Not only does it supply plentiful technical guidance on using such materials, (e.g. on still images), it is valuable for finding specialised search engines or sites. The comprehensive 2010 article ‘Finding Video, Audio and Images Online' exemplifies these qualities. It is complemented by reviews of search engines for images, moving images and audio. These date from 2008, but remain generally sound.

Higher education libraries and faculty are continually adapting their traditional roles to the world of the Internet. This is demonstrated by the subject listings from the UK's University of East London (UEL). Each listing is prepared by a subject librarian, and while the librarians' main concern is to serve UEL's students and staff (thus some sites are only accessible to them), many examples from what they have selected are open to all. Most if not all university library websites can be similarly fruitful to the researcher.

Another way in which they utilise the web is through the use of social bookmarking. Examples on Delicious include the libraries of the London School of Economics and the University of Malaya . Unfortunately it isn't possible to search Delicious for a named institution's bookmarks, but once one is located it can also lead to other academic-standard sources amongst its Network or Fans.

Itunes U is Apple's own imaginative entry into the academic arena. While Itunes is built into their computers, it is also possible to download a version for the PC, and hence to benefit from the lectures and texts which, coming from many esteemed sources, are located there.

Tradition and the twenty-first century are brought together in the form of ebooks. The University of California Press offers a collection which mixes restricted and public access titles. Simply click on Browse Public Titles to find the latter, listed alphabetically. This example can be complemented by a great collection of ebook sites put together by the University of Leicester Library (UK); most are general, with a few subject-specific ones at the bottom of the page. The majority listed are open access.

Through specialist portals, search engines and library websites, higher learning is thus potentially made more available in the virtual world, even as cutbacks and other financial constraints make it harder to attain in the real one.

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